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Lucille Bridges (1934–2020), mother in 1960 school desegregation

by Linnea Crowther

Lucille Bridges was the mother of Ruby Bridges, who made history in 1960 when she began attending an all-white school in New Orleans.

Civil Rights trailblazer

Bridges, who had to leave school after eighth grade to help her sharecropper parents, was determined that her own children would get good educations. So she moved her family from Mississippi to New Orleans, and when an opportunity arose for Black children to test for entry into the city’s all-white schools — five years after school segregation had been federally outlawed — Bridges jumped at the chance to have kindergartener Ruby take the test. Ruby passed, becoming the sole Black child to attend William Franz Elementary School. Bridges escorted her to school every day of the school year, and they were accompanied by armed federal marshals amid violent protests and death threats. Bridges and her husband lost their jobs due to the controversy, and their friends and neighbors volunteered to guard their home as protests escalated. In later years, Bridges had to evacuate New Orleans for Houston during Hurricane Katrina; she moved back to New Orleans about five years before her death.

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Bridges on carrying on despite threats and protests

“All those people calling us names, you just have to charge that to their ignorance and just go on. Be yourself, and God will bring you through.” —from a 2016 interview for the Altharetta Yeargin Art Museum

Tributes to Lucille Bridges

“Today our country lost a hero. Brave, progressive, a champion for change. She helped alter the course of so many lives by setting me out on my path as a six year old little girl. Our nation lost a Mother of the Civil Rights Movement today. And I lost my mom.  I love you and am grateful for you. May you Rest In Peace.” —Ruby Bridges

Full obituary: The New York Times

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